As I was going through pharmacy school and working as an intern, I was often astounded by what patients think pharmacists do in their everyday jobs. When I tell people that I’m a pharmacist (especially non-medical people) it usually leads to a line of questioning about counting pills, pill bottles and standing behind a counter. I think this is an unfortunate, but an important perception that pharmacists shouldn’t ignore. Looking at the photo above (courtesy Rhoda Baer), maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by the public perception? In the photo, pill bottles are everywhere and the pharmacist is giving the gentleman his medication. My job is a little unique in pharmacy as I don’t dispense medications. Don’t misinterpret this post as indicating that filling and dispensing medications is not important. As someone who has taken medications and given medications to my children, the job of getting the right medication to the right patient is of premium value.
The strong public perception of pharmacists as simply “dispensing machines” is a frustrating one for me. We all certainly do way more than that. I don’t believe we are likely to change the public perception of “What is Pharmacy” until pharmacists stop being a part of the dispensing process. So how do we convey a better message that we do more than simply put “pills in the bottle”?
What is Clinical Pharmacy? Per ACCP, “Clinical Pharmacy is a health science discipline in which pharmacists provide patient care that optimizes medication therapy and promotes health, wellness, and disease prevention.” By definition clinical pharmacy can be done and is done anywhere.
Why do I call myself a clinical pharmacist? When I tell people I’m a pharmacist, I know for most folks, I’m going to be instantly put in that box of standing behind a counter giving this gentleman his medication. When I call myself a clinical pharmacist, I’m able to rebrand myself. If you think about someone’s response to my statement, you can see how it totally reshapes the conversation. Most patients don’t know what clinical pharmacy is and usually respond with something like “What is that?” “Or what do you do everyday?” You can see how using the term clinical pharmacy does actually matter. Doing this allows me to paint a different picture of what pharmacists do beyond the perception of putting pills in the bottle and giving it to the patient.
Looking for medication pearls from my real world experiences? Check out the FREE PDF I created – 30 medication mistakes that every healthcare professional should know!